"Wichita Lineman" single cover
|Single by Glen Campbell|
|from the album Wichita Lineman|
|B-side||"Fate of Man"|
|Glen Campbell singles chronology|
"Wichita Lineman" is a song written by American songwriter Jimmy Webb in 1968. It was first recorded by American country music artist Glen Campbell and widely covered by other artists. Campbell's version, which appeared on his 1968 album of the same name, reached #3 on the U.S. pop chart, remaining in the Top 100 for 15 weeks. In addition, the song also topped the American country music chart for two weeks, and the adult contemporary chart for six weeks. It was certified gold by the RIAA in January 1969. In Canada, the single also topped both the RPM national and country singles charts. In 2004, Rolling Stone magazine's list of the "500 Greatest Songs of All Time" ranked "Wichita Lineman" at #192. It has been referred to as "the first existential country song"; Music journalist Stuart Maconie called it "the greatest pop song ever composed"; and the BBC referred to it as "one of those rare songs that seems somehow to exist in a world of its own – not just timeless but ultimately outside of modern music". Wichita Lineman featured in series 12 of BBC Radio 4's Soul Music.
Background and content 
Jimmy Webb's inspiration for the lyrics came while driving through Washita County in rural southwestern Oklahoma. At that time, many telephone companies were county-owned utilities and their linemen were county employees. Heading westward on a straight road into the setting sun, Webb drove past a seemingly endless line of telephone poles, each looking exactly the same as the last. Then, in the distance, he noticed the silhouette of a solitary lineman atop a pole. He described it as "the picture of loneliness." Webb then "put himself atop that pole and put that phone in his hand" as he considered what the lineman was saying into the receiver. Glen Campbell added in a statement to the Dallas Observer that Webb wrote the song about his first love affair with a woman who married someone else.
The actual song lyrics mention the name "Wichita" rather than Washita. Campbell said it was because "Wichita sings better." It doesn't specify its exact location; Wichita, Kansas, in south central Kansas; Wichita County, Kansas, in western Kansas (which is over 250 road miles away); Wichita Falls, Texas; and Wichita County, Texas, have all been suggested as possibilities.[who?] The musicians used on the recording were Campbell, Al Casey and James Burton (guitar), Carol Kaye (bass), Jim Gordon (drums), and Al DeLory (piano). The orchestral arrangements were by DeLory.
The lyrics describe the loneliness that a telephone or electric power lineman feels while he works and his longing for an absent lover.
The phrase "singing in the wire" can refer to the sonic vibration commonly induced by wind blowing across small wires and conductors, making these lines whistle or whine like an aeolian harp. It could also, or even simultaneously, refer to the sounds that a lineman might hear when attaching a telephone earpiece to a long stretch of raw telephone or telegraph line, i.e. without typical line equalisation and filtering. In the recording, a notable feature of the orchestral arrangement is the effort of the violins and keyboards to mimic these ethereal sounds and morse code, and the lyric, "I can hear you through the whine" further alludes to them.
Cover versions 
Steel guitarist Buddy Emmons covered this song in 1970 (two years after Glen Campbell's hit version) on the Elektra album "Suite Steel." The Meters also covered the song in 1970, on their album "Struttin'."
Many adult MOR ("middle of the road") artists including Frank Sinatra, Tom Jones, Johnny Mathis, Robert Goulet, Andy Williams, Bobby Goldsboro, and Englebert Humperdinck have covered the song, most of them shortly after the original version was a hit. There were also many instrumental versions including a notable one by José Feliciano.
The Clouds covered the song on their 1995 EP "Aquamarine." The song was later included on their compilation albums "Collage" and "Favourites."
Alternative rock band R.E.M. covered this song on their 1996 EP "Bittersweet Me."
Garage-alternative rock band Urge Overkill recorded a version which was released as a 7" single in 1987, then later included in their release Americruiser/Jesus Urge Superstar, which combined their first two albums.
Country singer Keith Urban, a lifelong Campbell fan, also covered it.
On August 26, 1997, Wade Hayes released a cover version which peaked at #55 on the U.S. country music charts. It was to have been included on an album titled Tore Up from the Floor Up, but due to its poor chart performance, the album was delayed. That album was finally released in 1998 as When the Wrong One Loves You Right, with the "Wichita Lineman" cover excluded.
A cartoon caricature of Glen Campbell sang a brief parody of this song in a 1993 episode of Animaniacs during the Pinky & The Brain short "Bubba Bo Bob Brain", with the lyrics "I am a telephone repairman from this area."
In 2003, Campbell performed live in the studio with the Stone Temple Pilots, a performance included on the DVD which accompanied the band's Thank You album.
James Taylor covered the song on his 2008 release, Covers.
In 2012, Julie Klausner and Sandra Bernhard performed a live version backed up by Ted Leo and the Pharmacists during Klausner's "How Was Your Week" podcast at The Bell House. Ira Glass watched from The Snack Nest.
In 2012 Rita Wilson released a cover of "Wichita Lineman" on her "AM/FM" album.
Charts and sales 
Chart positions 
|Canada Country (RPM)||1|
|New Zealand (RIANZ)||10|
|United Kingdom (The Official Charts Company)||7|
|U.S. Billboard Hot Country Singles||1|
|U.S. Billboard Hot 100||3|
|U.S. Billboard Hot Adult Contemporary Tracks||1|
Year-End Chart 
|United Kingdom (The Official Charts Company)||56|
Chart successions 
"Those Were the Days" by Mary Hopkin
|US Billboard Easy Listening Singles number-one single
(Glen Campbell version)
December 14, 1968 (8 weeks)
"I've Gotta Be Me" by Sammy Davis Jr.
"Born to Be with You"
by Sonny James
|US Billboard Hot Country Singles
December 21-December 28, 1968
"Daddy Sang Bass"
by Johnny Cash
by Diana Ross & the Supremes
|Canadian RPM 100
December 16-23, 1968
by Young-Holt Unlimited
"I Take a Lot of Pride in What I Am"
by Merle Haggard
|Canadian RPM Country Tracks
January 13-January 20, 1969
"I Take a Lot of Pride in What I Am"
by Merle Haggard
- Whitburn, Joel (2002). Top Adult Contemporary: 1961-2001. Record Research. p. 43.
- RIAA searchable database
- Library and Archives Canada http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/rpm/028020-119.01-e.php?brws_s=1&file_num=nlc008388.5889&type=1&interval=24&PHPSESSID=25q34bgck2obn02l8qiut07601
- Library and Archives Canada http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/rpm/028020-119.01-e.php?brws_s=1&file_num=nlc008388.5866&type=1&interval=24&PHPSESSID=25q34bgck2obn02l8qiut07601
- Dylan Jones: If You Ask Me
- Maconie, Stuart (2004). Cider With Roadies (1st ed.). London: Random House. p. 303. ISBN 0-09-189115-9.
- "Wichita Lineman". BBC Radio 2. April 2005. Retrieved 14 February 2011.
- "Soul Music - Wichita Lineman". BBC Radio 4. August 2011. Retrieved 18 September 2011.
- Robert Wilonsky (2006-11-02). "Power Lines : Jimmy Webb wrote one of the greatest songs ever. Just don't tell him that.". Dallas Observer. Retrieved 2010-01-20.
- [dead link]
- "Wichita Lineman by Wade Hayes". CMT. 1997-08-26. Retrieved 2012-12-27.
- "Wade Hayes' "Wrong" Is Just Right for Him". Sarasota Herald-Tribune. 28 November 1997. Retrieved 23 September 2010.
- "Go-Set Australian charts - 12 February 1969". Poparchives.com.au. 1969-02-12. Retrieved 2012-01-08.
- The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits, 6th Edition, 1996
- Rolling Stone 500 Greatest Songs of All Time: Wichita Lineman
- Full lyrics of this song at MetroLyrics